I will admit it. I like old rocks. I like rocks that were set in place by people 1,000 years ago, or 2,0000 years ago. Or longer. Just as I was fascinated by Mesa Verde when I lived in Colorado, I am fascinated by the architectural treasures that are everywhere here in Israel. Yesterday we saw the ruins of the ancient village of Nazareth, circa the first century (under and key to the Basilica of the Annunciation), today we visited Caesaria National Park. Caesaria is named after Caesar. Because it was the primary roman port built by Herod BEFORE the time of Jesus. The ruins are extensive, and we saw the port, and the basic docks where boats would come in, the hippodrome, where the horses races were held, Herrod’s pool, in the Med, and the amphitheater, PLUS the giant Roman aqueduct that brought water from the Med inland. It was very cool.
After Caesaria, we picked up a rental car, and then drove to visit Dr. Gabriel Solomon, emeritus professor at Haifa University and founding director of the Peace Education Research Center. We spent an hour talking with Gabbi, Evanna (our host, and a PhD in peace education research), and another professor who also studied under him, talking about Friends Forever, how to evaluate a program, the challenges in changing people’s minds, and a whole host of other issues. Then back to Ein Hod, and dinner at Evanna’s house (fantastic dinner as has been the norm with everything here), with her and her husband David, who is a former journalist for Ha’aretz, and we had a fascinating conversation about Israel/Palestine, different types of Jews (orthodox, traditional, secular), Israeli immigration policies for Jews, the large influx of non-religious jews, differences between Israeli-Arabs, and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and so much more. The conversations lasted for several hours, and were it not 11:15pm, and I did not have to be up before 6am tomorrow to drive to Tel Aviv / Joppa, to visit the Simon Peres Center for Peace at 8:30, I would try to articulate more of it now. But sometimes you just have to sit on ideas and let them percolate.
The conversations since 5:30pm tonight qualify in that need for percolation. Competing narratives, multiple perspectives, all extremely complex. But the one thing I will say, is that compared with the one-sided, simplistic narrative presented by the Israel Palestine Mission Network and the proponents of divestment at last summer’s PCUSA General Assembly, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that we as a Presbyterian Church are poorly served by the singular focus on justice for Palestinians that dominated everything. In just five days I have heard multiple narratives, and I haven’t even heard the Orthodox narrative (that will come Sunday in the Settlement in Hebron), or the West Bank narrative which will come on Saturday as I travel across the West Bank and Sunday afternoon with Palestinians in the West Bank. There is much to process.
As I look at my complex goals for this trip: planning for study abroad, engaging in a fact finding mission through first-hand observation, experiencing the sites and sounds (and taste, oh the taste!) of the land called by some as Israel, by others as Palestine, and by many as the Holy land, I feel like much has been accomplished in such a short time.
Some photos from Casesaria are in Smugmug, more will go up tomorrow. Time to get some zzz’s…..